Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association Case Brief

Facts of the case

Associations of companies that create, publish, distribute, sell and/or rent video games brought a declaratory judgment action against the state of California in a California federal district court. The plaintiffs brought the claim under the First and Fourteenth Amendments seeking to invalidate a newly-enacted law that imposed restrictions and labeling requirements on the sale or rental of violent video gamesto minors. The district court found in favor of the plaintiffs and prevented the enforcement of the law.On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding that: (1) violent video games did not constitute obscenityunder the First Amendment, (2) the state did not not have a compelling interest in preventing psychological or neurological harm to minors allegedly caused by video games, and (3) even if the state had a compelling interest, the law was not narrowly tailored enough to meet that objective.


The Supreme Court found that the statute violated the First Amendment . According to the Court, video games were a protected means of expression under the First Amendment , thus, statute in question violated First Amendment protections because it was both under-inclusive and over-inclusive. The Court determined that the statute was seriously under-inclusive because it did not preclude minors from having access to information about violence in other forms, only in video games. Furthermore, the Court held that it was seriously over-inclusive because it abridged the First Amendment rights of young people whose parents (and aunts and uncles) thought that violent video games were a harmless pastime. In conclusion, the Court ruled that the statute did not survive a strict scrutiny analysis.

  • Advocates: Zackery P. Morazzini Supervising Deputy Attorney General of California, for the petitioners Paul M. Smith for the respondents
  • Petitioner: Edmund Gerald Brown, Governor, et al.
  • Respondent: Entertainment Merchants Association, et al.
  • DECIDED BY:Roberts Court
  • Location: California State Legislature
Citation: 564 US _ (2011)
Granted: Apr 26, 2010
Argued: Nov 2, 2010
Decided: Jun 27, 2011
Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association Case Brief